New Yorkers are perpetually trying to explain the musical gazingstock that is Sxip. Their eyes grow big as saucers and they wave their hands around, emitting odd tones of pleasure and emphatic non sequiturs such as "A bowllike thing with a tampon applicator, utterly transcendent" before sagging from the effort and saying simply, "I guess you'll just have to go see him." The first time I saw Sxip he was peeling old chewing gum off of hunks of sidewalk and channeling the voices and the songs trapped therein, seemingly impervious to the black sludge dribbling down his chin. He's one of those musicians who see potential and beauty in detritus and shrapnel. As a collector of lost things and constructor of never-before-heard noise, Sxip has served as musical director for the Bindlestiff Circus and appeared with the Daredevil Opera Company at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., leaving a legion of slack-jawed critics in his wake. With a musical arsenal that includes the industrial flute, the mutant harmonica, the obnoxiophone, the triple-extended penny whistle, a miniature hand-bell choir, and a regurgitated music box, he conjures a world of infernal calliopes and cotton candy machetes wielded by Gypsy crones with angel feet. During a recent stay in Romania and Istanbul, where Sxip was, of course, embraced by the Rom as being just mad enough to be one of them, he purchased a zurna, an instrument he claims is the most terrifying he has ever heard, which is saying a lot. I guess we'll just have to go and see. Sxip performs on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 19-20, at the Odeon with Evolution Control Committee opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8; call 550-6994 or go to www.odeonbar.com.
The Oakland quartet Winfred E. Eye, named for singer Aaron Calvert's grandfather, tells the tales of ordinary men with ordinary troubles: Tom MacGrady smokes crack cocaine; Schimke Binx is a village idiot without a juggling act; Lare once had a beautiful guitar that was run over by a car and mended with duct tape; the "Run Along" protagonist sniffs his dental floss after he's through; and Grandpa hides his heartbreak with a deadly smile. Booze, flatulence, pollywogs, and sandbox chocolates (a wicked euphemism for cat shit) are common currency on The Dirt Tier, which is the name of both the band's third full-length release and the psychological domain that its members inhabit all year round. Under the watchful eye of Calvert and company, "farts" and "frogs" leave the land of lazy summers and schoolboy pranks to become weather vanes of emotional famine. Shuddering minor keys, lonesome drifts of dobro, shambling percussion, and wide-open spaces broken by threads of harmonica and organ belie Winfred E. Eye's self-contented smiles and cheerfully woolly faces. And Calvert's well-tanned and bottle-torn voice confirms it: The East Bay is a land full of woe. Winfred E. Eye performs on Sunday, Sept. 21, at the Make-Out Room with Boxcar Saints and Odessa Chen opening at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $6; call 647-2888 or go to www.makeoutroom.com.